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Prey: recover your stolen phones, tablets and even Windows notebooks

02 December 2011, Mike Williams

If you’re worried about your phone or tablet being lost or stolen then it’s generally very easy to get some help. Just check a box in your iPad settings, or install a suitable app, and if your device goes astray you may be able to track its location, send messages to the thief, even remotely lock or wipe the device to prevent anyone accessing your files.

If you’d like the same protection for your Windows laptop, though – or, even more conveniently, want to use the same service to cover all your devices – then the choice is considerably more limited. Although, fortunately, there is one strong contender in the Prey Project.

Prey is lightweight, and works just about everywhere, with versions available for Windows, the Mac, Linux, iOS and Android. It’s also easily installed, and offers just about everything you’d expect from this kind of recovery tool.

Once you mark a lost device as “missing” at the Prey website, the program will pick this up if your system goes online, and begin sending reports. These may include its current location (the device needs wireless support for this to work), a picture of the thief (if you have a webcam), a grab of the desktop to show how your system is being used, and more.

If you’d like to try and take control of the situation, then you can also send a message to the device, perhaps offering a reward for its safe return. You’re able to remotely secure the device, hiding emails, and deleting stored passwords. And a Lock option will prevent anyone from using the device at all until a password has been entered.

And best of all, the basic Prey account does all of this for up to three devices at no charge at all.

If you need more, though, commercial Pro accounts are also available. These enable you to get “missing” reports faster, and more frequently, can support more devices, and make it easier to deploy Prey in the first place. Prices start at $5 a month and you can read more at the Prey site.

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